May 6, 2020

I’m splitting my stimulus check in 3: savings, donations, and spending


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  • When I received my $1,200 stimulus check, my gut reaction was to save all of it. 
  • But to help my community, I’ve decided to donate a chunk of it. 
  • I’ve also allowed myself to spend some of it, which could prevent impulse spending down the line.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

When I received my $1,2000 stimulus check a few weeks ago, I mulled over how to best use it. With so much uncertainty about the future of the economy, my initial reaction as a longtime, diligent saver was to squirrel all of it away.

As a single woman who is the sole income earner in a household of one, I never feel I have enough in my emergency fund. Should something happen to my ability to make a living, I would be hard-pressed money-wise. That being said, a lot of my favorite local businesses are also struggling, and people in my small community could use a financial boost.

After some internal back-and-forth and wrestling with the fact that the wise thing to do is tuck away my entire stimulus check into savings, I landed on a compromise. I’d put $600 into my savings, and spend the remaining $600 since I’m still able to work through the pandemic.

I have enough to get by

While making a living as a full-time freelance writer means dealing with inconsistent income, since the pandemic spread to the US, there have been some shake-ups with clients I write for.

Some are putting a temporary halt on content creation, and others have ramped up their content needs. In turn, my cash flow has, for the time being, remained relatively unchanged.

While the amount in my emergency fund isn’t as high as I would like it to be, by no means am I maneuvering through rocky financial waters. What’s more, I paid off my car loan last year and don’t carry any debt. So I feel like I’m in a place where I can give more to those around me. 

Looking out for my community is important

I felt that I could serve my community best by spending half of my stimulus check. In picking out which causes I wanted to donate money to, I felt overwhelmed. There are so many organizations and groups that could use some help. But rather than spread that money thin, I decided the best route to take was to focus on just a few causes.

I’ve made donations to a freelancer relief fund to help fellow freelancers whose income has dwindled due to the pandemic. I’ve also been supporting a “quarantine canteen” in the town where I live. Each week a featured restaurant serves meals to members of the community for free.

Spending a little now so I don’t go overboard later

We’re bound to get bouts of cabin fever while we’re cooped up in quarantine. So to shake off the occasional case of the blues, boredom, or anxiety, I do my best to stay active and go on walks as much as possible. However, spending more time scrolling through social media feeds and clicking on promo emails in my inbox from my favorite online retailers is inevitable.

To deal with those moments when I’m feeling “add-to-cart” click happy and want to receive a package of goodies delivered to my doorstep, I’m perfectly okay allocating $300 of my stimulus check to frivolous spending. 

To avoid going overboard, I’ve given myself a set amount to spend each week. So far, I’ve treated myself to cute, small things that bring me joy, such as stickers and notepads. I’ve also bought some clothes to spruce up my wardrobe and ordered takeout from nearby restaurants.

I’ve also used some of that money to help friends with small businesses who could use a boost. For example, for Mother’s Day, I ordered a bouquet of special balloons from my friend’s local party supply shop. Once that $300 is gone, I’ll rework my budget to see how much I can afford to spend on non-essentials each month.

While the sensible thing to do during these unprecedented times is to hold on to any money coming in, I feel a tug of responsibility to spend at least part of it. While I don’t have gobs of disposable income to burn, I am debt free, have some savings parked in the bank, and am still earning an income.

I want to do my small part in helping my community and giving a little bit to causes I care about. And to spare my sanity and prevent bursts of overspending later, I’ve allowed myself to burn a bit of cash for the cheap thrill. Spending a little bit during these times is worth it to me.



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